If the last week has been slow on signings, it looks like the UFC is swinging back into full gear. They just brought back Ben Saunders to the fold, picked up a new, promising strawweight in Kailan Curran. Now, word is out (most particularly via the UFC website) that they've picked up two new bantamweight prospects for a late notice fight on the upcoming Fight Night Bangor card, on August 16th. Frankie Saenz and Nolan Ticman are set to face off in a debut fight for both men as the opening bout on the Fox Sports 2 prelims.
Who is Frankie Saenz?
The former KOTC flyweight champion, Saenz comes to the UFC with an 8-2 record out of Trident Performance Training. He's a former Lion's Den fighter and ASU wrestler, from just before the years that produced Cain Velasquez, Ryan Bader, and C.B. Dollaway, among others. He enters the UFC at 34 years of age, with a solid record built over decent winning fighters. One of his two losses came via DQ, so he really only has the one blemish on his record. Given the short notice nature of this fight, and his past at flyweight, I wouldn't be surprised if he drops down a division with either a win or a loss here.
What you should expect:
First and foremost, Saenz is a wrestler. Most of his striking offense is built around staying defensively sound and looking for ways to get inside between big overhand punches to transition to takedowns. He's absolutely dogged in his pursuit of the ground game and has strong top control, and solid ground and pound once he gets the fight there. On his feet he does mix to the body nicely when boxing in combination. He's not the best at staying in the pocket to strike, but he has shown a great ability to get in on a takedown, throw his opponent off balance, and then strike as they try to regain their footing. It's a very good technique in lighter weight classes, where keeping top control can be more trouble than it's worth.
Who is Nolan Ticman?
Like his opponent, 26-year old Nolan Ticman comes to MMA through a college wrestling background. A former wrestler for Cal State Fullerton, Ticman enters the UFC with a 4-1 record out of Kings MMA. Currently home to fighters like Jake Ellenberger, Fabricio Werdum, Shogun Rua, and Beneil Dariush. Interestingly, Ticman hasn't fought since 2012, but for the life of me I'm not sure why; I haven't seen any mention of an injury. His record isn't all that impressive on it's own, although it should be noted that his loss to Gabriel Baiano (by far the best fighter he's faced) was due to a cut, in a fight most feel he was winning. His trainer, Rafael Cordeiro has compared him to Wanderlei Silva in terms of his aggressive Muay Thai game.
What you should expect:
For lack of a better statement, who knows? These are the kinds of fighters that are almost impossible to predict in their debut. With close to two years on the sidelines, that's a ton of time for potential improvement. We saw this recently with Patrick Holohan putting on a show of skill against Josh Sampo unlike anything he'd shown in the cage prior. What I've seen on Ticman suggests that he has a lot of power in his strikes, and throws his kicks well, but is otherwise still a bit static and unpolished in his standup. His ability to hit quick switch kicks on the fly backs up his reputation for being a great athlete, but he still has a lot of rough edges as a striker and that seems to be where he wants to fight.
What this means for their debut:
Almost impossible to say. Ticman is pretty clearly the better athlete. He looks faster, stronger, and perhaps a bit more coordinated. To date, Saenz has shown himself to be the much more well rounded, complete fighter, but he's also training out of a much smaller camp and with much less renowned partners and coaches. And, he and Ticman have a pretty similar wrestling background (Saenz biggest technical strength). If Ticman comes in vastly improved from his past form, he could blow Saenz away here. If he comes in as the same fighter he has been, he probably loses a close scrappy decision.
To get us better acquainted, here's Frankie Saenz's last fight against Marvin Blumer (fight starts at about 00:98:50):
And, for what it's worth, here's Ticman's last bout against Adriano Goncalves: